Monday, December 3, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Ex-PMs never die
It seems both Turnbull and Abbott want Morrison to fail

Malcolm Turnbull’s weekend intervention to ensure a preselection contest in the seat of Hughes, held by arch-conservative Craig Kelly, backfired today, with the NSW Liberal Party voting to use emergency powers to cancel the preselection process. Any shred of influence or goodwill the former PM had with his successor, Scott Morrison, must by now have evaporated, as Turnbull’s pot-stirring does nothing to help the Coalition.

Labor, meanwhile, went into the last sitting week of parliament with all guns blazing today, with deputy leader Tanya Plibersek testing [$] the government’s numbers in the House of Representatives (but falling short partly due to the well-timed absence [$] of backbencher Emma Husar); shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus effectively accusing the prime minister or his office of orchestrating what could be a criminal leak to The Australian; and Penny Wong, leader of the Opposition in the Senate, thundering that the government should “call an election” after it abandoned a bill to protect LGBTIQ students from discrimination, even though it had the numbers to pass it. Labor is showing open contempt for the ongoing shambles that is the Morrison government, and the prime minister himself is sounding increasingly defensive.

In a revealing interview on RN Breakfast this morning Turnbull all but confirmed reports [$] that he had said Morrison was all about “keeping his arse on C1”, the prime minister’s Commonwealth car, and that he and Morrison had considered going to an election on March 2, three weeks out from the NSW election, to offer the Berejiklian government clear air. Turnbull’s argument, that Morrison should not cave in to threats from Craig Kelly to cross the floor and bring the government down, was perfectly reasonable. But Turnbull is the last person who can credibly mount that argument, having spent so much of his prime ministership caving in to similar threats – over the National Energy Guarantee, from Kelly and others, and over a banking royal commission, from LNP backbencher George Christensen. As Dee Madigan tweeted, “It’s like a fight between jellyfish.” The former PM is not a miserable ghost hanging around the parliament, but, as he pointed out this morning, he is not going to be a “trappist monk” either, and keep his opinions to himself.

To underline the point that ex-prime ministers never die, Tony Abbott did a remarkable interview with The Weekend Australian, in which he canvassed [$] the possibility that he could return to the country’s highest office. This is Morrison’s deeper problem: not that he now faces carping from two former PMs – an unprecedented shemozzle in itself – but that it is no longer even clear that his colleagues are working for the re-election of his government any longer. Abbott, Kelly and their backers are looking beyond defeat in 2019, for a chance to forge, out of what would be a decimated Opposition, a more conservative Liberal Party. Both Turnbull and Abbott would like to see Morrison go down, but for different reasons. Turnbull, because a thumping defeat will underline that his removal was a mistake; Abbott, because he imagines it will give him a chance to do what he is best at: opposing. No wonder Morrison sounded, this afternoon, especially shouty, angry and defensive. His is an utterly friendless government, on both sides of the aisle, among both conservative and progressive media, in almost every state and territory in the land.

since this morning

Labor is resisting pressure from the Coalition to pass its highly controversial encryption-breaking legislation, which would grant the government sweeping powers to compel tech companies and telco providers to give police agencies power to access encrypted communications.

Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks has confirmed that 144 positions will be made redundant as a result of the company’s recently approved takeover of Fairfax Media.

in case you missed it

The Guardian reports that Australia’s biggest energy and business groups have banded together to urge the government to abandon its “big stick” approach to energy legislation, while The AFR reports [$] that a High Court challenge is being prepared over the threat to break up energy companies.

Andrew Wilkie has confirmed that he would not support a hostile referral of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court, instead insisting all in-doubt MPs must have their eligibility tested together, according [$] to The Australian.

The ABC’s Greg Jennett writes that “Scott Morrison and his little black book endured a difficult debut on G20’s world stage.”

Médecins sans Frontières says the mental health situation of the asylum seekers on Nauru is equivalent to that of victims of torture.

by John Birmingham
Rebellion in Dutton country
Labor, the Greens and GetUp are preparing for battle in the Queensland electorate of Dickson

by Mungo MacCallum
Why Adani shouldn’t make long-term plans
The #climatestrike shows that the future is not on the miner’s side

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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